Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.
As for the son of the slave-woman,
I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.
Abraham then obeyed Sarah, and he prepared water and bread for Hagar and the boy, and he sent them off. When the water ran out, Hagar burst into tears and walked away from Ishmael, for she could not bear to see him die. But God heard the boy, and He sent an angel to reassure them. “Come”, he said to Hagar, “lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink. God was with the boy and he grew up; he dwelt in the wilderness and became a bowman. He lived in the wilderness of Paran [which means ‘Beauty’ and ‘Glory’].
So Ishmael, too, is to have a share in God’s Covenant with Abraham: he too will give birth to a great nation. His father Abraham loved him (Hebrew legends tell us that Abraham visited his elder son on many occasions throughout his life) and when the time came for the boy to depart, he provided him with bread (spiritual sustenance) and water (spiritual truth). And when this ran out, God Himself appeared and gave him more: the Lord ‘opened Hagar’s eyes’ – that is, He opened the Eye of her Soul, so that she could ‘see’ the Truth and convey it to her son. Ishmael, we are told, drank this ‘water’, and he went on to live in Beauty and Glory.
When Sarah saw Hagar’s son Ishmael playing with Isaac, she told Abraham to cast out the child and his mother. Abraham was greatly distressed, but God told him to do as Sarah said, and He assured Abraham that they would both be fine. Abraham prepared water and bread for Hagar and Ishmael, and sent them off.
In the valley of Becca, forty days south of Canaan, the water ran out, and mother and son were so overcome with thirst that Hagar feared the boy would die. While Ishmael lay in the sand crying out to God, the distraught Hagar stood upon a rock to see if any help was in sight. Seeing no one, she rushed to another high point to look for help, but still could see no one. Seven times she passed back and forth between the two points, and then she sat upon the rock and wept.
But God had heard her son, and He sent an angel to reassure them. “Come”, He said to Hagar, “lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.
The water was from a spring which God caused to arise under the feet of Ishmael. It was named Zamzam, and it would soon become a favored place for caravans to stop, due to the abundance and excellence of the sacred water.
Abraham often visited his first-born son in the valley of Becca (later called Mecca), the holy place to which Hagar had been guided by God. On one such visit, God showed Abraham a certain site near the well, and on that spot he and Ishmael built a sanctuary called the Ka’bah.
When the sanctuary was complete, God spoke to Abraham and said, “Do not ascribe divinity to aught beside Me!”
Purify my Temple for those who will walk around it, and those who will stand before it in meditation, and those who will bow down and prostrate themselves in prayer. And proclaim unto all people the duty of the pilgrimage, that they may come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every far-away point on earth, so that they might experience much that shall be of benefit to them.
Abraham made it part of the rite that the pilgrims were to pass seven times between the two high points where Hagar had passed seven times.
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